Migration and the Maintenance of Racial Segregation

Quillian, Lincoln
Working paper no. 1998-29


This paper examines the patterns of residential mobility by whites and African Americans that contribute to continued high levels of black/white residential segregation in American cities. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics matched with data from the decennial censuses, patterns of migration are described and then modeled as a function of individual characteristics. Three patterns are found to be primarily responsible for continuing high levels of segregation: white avoidance of neighborhoods with more than a few blacks, low rates of black entry into white neighborhoods relative to whites, and black migration out of white neighborhoods. White probabilities of moving among neighborhood types are only weakly influenced by individual characteristics including income; black probabilities are more strongly influenced by individual characteristics. The results indicate that white migration to avoid neighborhoods with more than a small black presence is a key process that upholds racial segregation. Implications for policies to address racial segregation are discussed.